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28 September 2021

Introducing GLIMS Genetics Counselling


In 2019, Clinisys | MIPS launched its Genetics LIS, with a successful phase of development and deployment in Europe.
Now, it has launched a clinical counterpart to the system. Stéphane Decap and Emma Huntridge outline the benefits of GLIMS Genetics Counselling to clinicians, laboratories, patients and their families.

Let’s start with a quick reminder: what is GLIMS Genetics?

Emma Huntridge, Genetics Business Development Director, Clinisys | MIPS: GLIMS Genetics is a laboratory information management system built to meet the requirements of genetic laboratories. It was launched in November 2019, following a successful first deployment at Poitiers University Hospital in France.

Since then, it has gone live at 2 additional laboratories in Germany and Belgium, a further 5 across Europe are in the preparatory stages for implementation with the first NHS Trust site in the UK due to go live in 2022. It is also attracting a lot of interest in the rest of the UK, as genetic testing is evolving and becoming an established diagnostic tool for an increasing number of patients.

Genetics laboratories need to move away from receiving orders on paper and managing samples on spreadsheets. They require an automated, streamlined approach that can increase sample throughput, standardise workflows, and improve efficiency to deliver results back to clinicians rapidly along with the information required for result interpretation.

In short, genetic laboratories need a modern, dedicated laboratory information management system, and that is what GLIMS Genetics delivers.

So, what is GLIMS Genetics Counselling?

Emma: Until now, GLIMS Genetics has been a laboratory system, used by laboratory staff. Now, we are opening it up to clinicians working with patients and families. GLIMS Genetics Counselling helps clinicians run their clinics, order tests electronically, and manage their patients’ genetic records. It also integrates with hospital electronic patient record systems, using a HL7 interface.

Why do clinicians need GLIMS Genetics Counseling?

Stéphane Decap, Genetics Product Manager, Clinisys | MIPS: Genetic testing is complex. Two or three decades ago, it was exciting just to be able to sequence genetic material, but the arrival of next generation sequencing technologies has led to an explosion of discoveries of novel mutations or variants. That presents a challenge to clinical geneticists, clinical oncologists, and other clinical specialists who need to know what tests to order and how to accurately interpret the results to maximise the benefits for their patients.

To do that, they need to consider numerous types of information, such as a patient’s family history, their medical record, their phenotype, genotype-phenotype relationships, the possibilities that personalised medicine can offer, and importantly the patient’s wishes. All this information can help a clinician to decide whether it is appropriate to consider a genetic test for their patient, and which test(s) to offer.

GLIMS Genetics Counselling is built around forms that clinicians can use to collect this information in order to come to an informed decision on the next step. If a genetic test is indicated, then GLIMS Genetics Counselling is fully embedded within the laboratory element of GLIMS Genetics to enable efficient and seamless ordering of that test, followed by receipt of the report as soon as it is issued by the laboratory.

How does GLIMS Genetics Counselling help clinicians and laboratories provide a high quality service?

Stéphane: Historically, clinical laboratory scientists have always worked very closely with their clinical colleagues in order to provide first class services for their patients. Recently in the UK, separate LIS and electronic patient health records (EPR) have been introduced which are highly complex and offer sophisticated and capable IT solutions. However, having two different systems makes data access less efficient than having everything available in a single application.

This is where GLIMS Genetics Counselling can help elevate the quality of a service, by bringing scientists and clinicians together to enable the seamless sharing of each other’s data. GLIMS Genetics Counselling can interface with the EPR, so clinicians and scientists each still have their own systems and all the benefits they bring, with GLIMS Genetics Counselling sitting in the middle acting as a specialist extension to the EPR and shared with GLIMS Genetics.

What sort of information needs to be shared between clinicians and laboratories that GLIMS Genetics Counselling can help with?

Emma: A key requirement for determining which diagnostic tests to do and subsequently interpreting the results, is to have accurate information about a patient’s clinical phenotype. A worldwide initiative and key project of the Global Alliance for Genetics and Health is to standardise the terms used to describe clinical phenotypes, using the Human Phenotype Ontology (HPO). The HPO contains more than 13,000 standardised terms which describe clinical abnormalities, along with over 156,000 links to genetic diseases and their causative genes. The information in HPO is constantly being updated as we discover new variants or find out more about the impact of known variants on specific conditions. Thanks to the link between GLIMS Genetics Counselling and the HPO, clinicians will always have access to this latest information and will be able to readily import and record relevant HPO terms into their patients’ records in GLIMS Genetics Counselling. The laboratory will have seamless access to this data to help them manage individual tests and results.

How does GLIMS Genetics Counselling support patient management?

Emma: Many hospitals manage their appointments through their electronic patient record. So, the interface between the EPR and GLIMS Genetics Counselling will enable clinical geneticists to pull appointments into clinic lists.

A really useful feature of the system is that it enables clinicians to track the progress of a test. This is important information to feedback to patients and to help inform them when to expect their results. This facility should reduce the number of calls clinicians have to put into a laboratory to find out where tests have got to, which is inefficient use of both the clinician’s and laboratory’s time.

Clinicians can create or update a family tree to identify family members who may need counselling and testing. Or they can add flags to their clinical notes for review and follow-up. Some patients with genetic conditions may not develop symptoms of their disease for many years, so it’s important to be able to monitor their progress over time.

The HL7 interface also allows information to be sent back into the EPR; but for a sensitive condition with life-changing impacts, like Huntington disease, we would expect all the consultation and testing data to be securely maintained on the GLIMS database.

Has Clinisys | MIPS worked with clinical partners to develop this solution?

Stéphane: We have worked with two partners: Poitiers University Hospital and ULB ERASME Bruxelles, which have comprehensive genetic departments that incorporate both counselling and laboratory testing. There is a very close relationship between the two, so these hospitals are well-placed to advise on what is required. The model is the same as found in Clinical Genetic centres in the UK, where clinical, laboratory and often academic groups work closely together.

One of the features of GLIMS Genetics is that it is very configurable, so we can easily configure the system for different centres in the UK.

What is the big picture: how will this support the development of personalised medicine?

Emma: Personalised, or precision medicine, involves tailoring the treatment and predicting and preventing disease for individuals, based on information about a person’s genetic makeup. This means selecting treatments that reduce the likelihood of adverse effects and are most effective for the patient, and highlighting future risks of disease so that preventative measures can be recommended, like changes to lifestyle and diet.

In order to identify what personalised medicines are applicable for an individual patient, the DNA sequence and all the clinical details of the patient need to be readily accessible to upload into bioinformatic programs that interpret the data. This is where GLIMS Genetics Counselling supports personalised medicine, by collating all the clinical data in a standardised way using HPO terms, and making that data accessible along with the patient’s genetic test results stored in GLIMS Genetics.

By interfacing GLIMS Genetics Counselling with a hospital’s EPR, the outcomes of genetic tests can be exported into the EPR for all healthcare professionals managing a patient to act on. As the applications of personalised medicine increase, the need for good informatic systems to convey information will become even more important to ensure clinicians can manage their patients effectively and safely. 

A second area where GLIMS Genetics Counselling can support personalised medicine is research, as all the relevant clinical and genetic data will be standardised, readily accessible and searchable for research initiatives looking at personalised medicine.